Community members testify on housing, homelessness and culturally appropriate services at final public budget hearing


June 3, 2022

Multnomah County received more than 150 written testimonies – and heard directly from more than two dozen people – about the importance of expanding homelessness, health and other social services during a public hearing on Wednesday June 1st.

The meeting was the third and final public hearing before the Board of County Commissioners formally adopts the final budget for the financial year 2023 on Thursday June 16.

“Tonight’s hearing is my very last,” the president said. Deborah Kafoury, who will leave the Board next year due to term limits. “Attending these budget hearings has always been one of my favorite times in the Multnomah County department.”

Business and nonprofit leaders celebrate investments in homeless services

Ian Austin, who works for Central City Concern, offered himself as a living example of the importance of investing in programs that end homelessness. Since 2018, he said, he has been without substance. He attributes his sobriety to the Joint Office of Homeless Serviceswhose programs he said helped him out of homelessness.

Recently, Austin graduated from Portland Community College with a two-year degree and transferred to Portland State University, where he is a freshman. He also has a full-time job “sowing the seeds of change” in other people.

“This would not have been possible without the resources provided by your Joint Office of Homeless Services,” Austin said. “I pay taxes today. I am an asset to the world.

Gary Cobb, who works in the public policy department of Central City Concern, thanked the commissioners for their investments in the community.

“I want to thank you all for all of the support you have given to Central City Concern and all the other non-profit organizations that are doing amazing work to end homelessness and a positive life for people in our community,” Cobb said.

Ashley Henry, Executive Director of Business for a Better Portlandwhich represents more than 400 businesses and businesses, highlighted the range and breadth of the county’s term investments in homeless services.

The Joint Bureau’s proposed budget — including county funds, supportive housing service measurement funds, city of Portland funds and federal funds — would invest a record $255.5 million. dollars to expand housing programs, housing placements and start new partnerships with the county’s behavioral health division.

More than half, $130 million, is earmarked for shelters, enabling continued capacity expansion that has added hundreds of beds during the COVID-19 pandemic. This significant increase in shelter investments includes funds from the Supportive Housing Services Measure, as well as county, federal and city funds. Overall, the budget would allow the Joint Office to support more than 2,400 adult accommodation beds, nearly double the number before the pandemic.

An additional $100 million would be dedicated to housing placements, rental assistance and support services that will permanently end people’s homelessness.

In the first nine months of the current fiscal year, Joint Office funds have helped over 2,700 people move into housing and out of homelessness, including 500 people helped by the Housing Services Measure with support services. An additional 400 people served by the measure funds are enrolled in programs and actively seeking housing.

“Multnomah County needs a budget that funds the continuum of services needed to provide immediate and lasting relief,” Henry said. “This includes shelter, affordable housing and comprehensive services. As proposed, this budget gives priority to the three.”

Blanchet House, another county partner, serves meals to residents of downtown Portland. On Monday, May 2, the nonprofit reopened its indoor dining facility after the pandemic interrupted its meal service.

Scott Kerman, executive director of Blanchet House, thanked the board for funding a program last fall that pays peer support specialists to work with Blanchet and three other nonprofits serving children. homeless people in the old town.

He urged the board to continue funding the first-of-its-kind program next year, stressing the value of having peers at the nonprofit’s lunch and dinner services.

“I can tell you in real time it helps people,” Kerman said. “Having them on hand during our services will make a real difference. And it will be money well spent.

Some community members have expressed concerns about conditions in and around the Old Town. Elizabeth Nye, executive director of the Chinese Garden, urged the council to address behavioral health and sanitation issues that arise in the blocks surrounding the cultural monument.

“First of all, thank you, President Kafoury, for allocating $1.1 million to the Old City in the proposed budget,” Nye said. “Second, I ask you to reconsider how Multnomah County Vector Control addresses the rat infestations we are experiencing in Old Town. . . . The need is urgent and please know that your investment and attention to these issues is essential for the old city to rise and prosper or sink and drown.

A testimonial highlights the importance of culturally specific services

Other speakers highlighted the role of culturally specific service providers in meeting community needs. Organizations represented included the Immigrant and Refugee Community Organization (IRCO), Urban League of Portland, Pacific Islander Coalition of Multnomah County, Prism Health and Latino Network.

Tony DeFalco, executive director of Latino Network, thanked the council for focusing equity in county services. Founded in 1996, Latino Network is a culturally specific organization working to transform the lives of Latinx youth, families, and communities.

DeFalco said the nonprofit is “proud to continue our partnerships with the county to deliver high-quality, culturally-specific programming for all ages and needs of the Latinx community.”

In particular, DeFalco said, the county remains the nonprofit’s strongest partner in addressing gun violence, adding that culturally grounded violence intervention and prevention is “key.” public safety and the welfare of the community”.

Alex Riedlinger, policy advocacy coordinator and community organizer at IRCO, said the nonprofit’s “most important and vital” services are funded by Multnomah County. Founded in 1976 by immigrants and refugees, IRCO provides direct services to Portland’s immigrant and refugee communities.

Riedlinger highlighted county investments in energy and housing assistance, youth violence prevention and response, Schools Uniting Neighborhoods (SUN) sites and food pantries.

Since COVID-19 arrived in Multnomah County, Riedlinger said, IRCO has seen an increased need to address intersecting housing, mental health and community safety needs.

The county’s proposed budget “will help ensure healthier outcomes for our communities, provided these programs are designed with equity, language accessibility and cultural responsiveness in mind,” Riedlinger said.

Jennifer Parrish Taylor, director of advocacy and public policy at the Urban League, expressed appreciation for the proposed budget, but said more needs to be done to promote equity in the workforce for culturally diverse staff. specific.

“The county must commit to holistically supporting community nonprofits through contracts that reflect our work and value, but also must be confident that we have the technical expertise to do this work,” said said Parrish Taylor.

Community members applaud action on climate change

Families for Climate board member Noelle Studer-Spevak commended the board for taking action to address the climate crisis.

At a time when “climate leadership is in short supply,” Studer-Spevak said, the county has developed “smart programs,” including bloat, emergency responses and long-term efforts to address climate islands. heat in Multnomah County.

Studer-Spevak also applauded the county’s decision to switch to clean electricity in all new county buildings. She encouraged the council to advocate for all new homes to have clean electricity.

“It’s time to ease the individual burden of ensuring clean indoor air by sending a clear signal to the building community that all new construction in Multnomah County will be electric,” Studer-Sevak said.

There is still time to file a written testimony

Multnomah County continues to accept written testimonials at before the Council adopts a final budget for the 2023 financial year on Thursday 16 June.

“We still have a few weeks before voting on the budget until June 16,” President Kafoury said, “so there is plenty of time to let us know your thoughts, concerns or support.”

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